It's only December but the Hurricanes season has already been quite the roller coaster ride and the high points haven't lasted very long. That's why it's a little hard to get excited about the team's three game win-streak, because no one knows if it will develop into a great run or if the Canes will follow it up by dropping the next four or five games. That's just the way this season has gone and it has been frustrating to watch to say the very least. However, some good news about the Hurricanes recent win streak is that they are playing some of their best hockey of this (still young) season.
Over the last three games, the Canes have outscored their opponents 14-6 and they haven't just been beating them on the scoresheet, they have outplayed them dramatically. Their most impressive victory being Friday's come from behind win over the San Jose Sharks where the Canes won the possession battle against one of the Western Conference's elite teams. Expecting the Hurricanes to do that every night is probably asking for too much, but that game did show us what this team is capable of and that they are maybe better than what their record has shown thus far. The Canes have had a lot of banged up players in their lineup and now that everyone is slowly getting healthy, we could see their performance improve as the year goes on. Or at least that's what the last three indicates. We'll have to wait and see if it turns into anything, but it's still nice to see this team show some improvement.
Team Performance (Five-on-Five)
Carolina was outshot by Washington in a score-effect driven game but other than that, they owned the possession battle last week and looked better than they had all season. I mentioned in a previous post that the Canes have had to deal with a tough schedule and they have been able to outplay some of the weaker teams in the league. That trend continued last week, as they destroyed the Nashville Predators in just about every facet and carried over this performance the next night against San Jose. The Canes also outchaned their opponents in every game last week, so that's definitely a good sign heading forward. The question is weather or not they can sustain this level of play on their upcoming road trip. Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Phoenix are all beatable teams for the Hurricanes but with how inconsistent this team has been, it's tough to say how they'll come out of this stretch. They should be able to earn points in at least three out of these four games, but none of them will come easy.
Individual Performances (Five-on-Five)
– Jeff Skinner was the NHL's first star of the week and he deserved that honor by scoring five goals and six points in three games, giving the Hurricanes offense a much needed jolt. The new first line with him, Tuomo Ruutu and Eric Staal has been receiving sheltered minutes from the coaching staff, but they are at least making the most of it by producing points and winning the possession battle. I'd like to see more chance production out of them, but the fact that they are making an impact on the scoresheet means a lot more right now for a team that's starved for offense.
– Jordan Staal was quiet in the first two games this week, but he made up for it by having a monster performance against the Sharks on Friday night. He was on the ice for 9 scoring chances and had a dominant game at even strength, as Carolina outshot San Jose 31-13 with him on the ice.
– Elias LIndhollm is starting to look more at home in the NHL, as he is starting to help the Hurricanes drive possession and has made more of an impact in the last few games. He seems to have added a more physical element to his game and is creating a lot more chances than he was earlier in the season. He finally got to see some results for his hard work on Friday night, as he had a three-point game playing on Jordan Staal's wing. Lindholm has shown flashes of promise during his early stint in Carolina but last week was the first time that he truly looked like he belonged in the NHL.
– Another player who looked more like he belonged int he NHL was RIley Nash, who has pulled a complete 180 from his performance over the last month. Nash has had to deal with a couple of benchings and visits to the press box, but that seems to have motivated him, as he is playing some of the best hockey of his young NHL career. The two goals he scored were nice, but his game in all three zones is what was really impressive and the Hurricanes may not need to find another third line center if he keeps this up.
– Nathan Gerbe didn't score at all last week, but it certainly wasn't for lack of trying as he led the team in scoring chances and looked excellent in all three games. Gerbe takes a lot of low-percentage shots, but his willingness to get anything on net does create a lot of opportunities for other players (see Jordan Staal's goal) and he plays the type of game that makes him a fit on any line.
– The fourth line got their lunch handed to them at even strength, but they were also getting buried in the defensive zone so I'm not sure how big of a deal that is. They do a lot of good things whenever they are on the ice, but it never results in the Hurricanes generating any shots or quality zone time. This wouldn't be that big of a deal, but the fact they constantly get outshot and outchanced at evens might become a problem.
– Andrej Sekera has a four-game point strek going and his offensive game seems to improve every week. Him and Justin Faulk have been inconsistent in terms of their ability to control possession & scoring chances, but Sekera's offensive game has been a great addition to their blue-line. His passing has really gotten better and when you combine that with his patience and strong skating ability, it makes him a nice asset to have on the power play and at even strength. You can see how much of an impact he has at even strength, as he was on the ice for more shot attempts than any other defenseman not named Justin Faulk.
– Speaking of which, Faulk made his case for the Olympics this past week by having two dominant games against Nashville & San Jose respectively. His three-point game against Nashville was the only noise he made on the scoresheet but as a shutdown defenseman, Faulk was outstanding.
– It's unfortunate that Mike Komisarek got injured because he looked serviceable as a 6/7 defenseman in both games he played in last week. He wasn't great or anything, but he managed not to get destroyed in his own end and be a positive possession player. For someone like him, that's all you can ask for and hopefully he can keep it up once he returns.
– After sitting out the game against Washington, Ryan Murphy returned to the lineup and looked very good against Nashville & San Jose. I wonder how much of it had to do with him playing with Hainsey instead of Harrison, because I haven't noticed Murphy commit too many bad errors in his own zone but he always ends up being crushed in scoring chances despite that. This wasn't the case last week and I'm sure some of it had to do with him playing with a different defensive partner.
– Ron Hainsey is still awesome.
– Brett Bellemore left the game against Washington after taking a big hit from Tom Wilson. He is practicing with the team, but not having him in the lineup is a pretty big loss when you look at how Gleason & Harrison have played.
– Jay Harrison was one of two Carolina defensemen to get outchanced at even strength and he had some ugly moments against San Jose. He made up for it by having a two point game and recording another assist against Washington, but he's still losing the battle at even strength while playing sheltered minutes. Although, his performance over the last three games was an improvement for him compared to recent weeks.